Wow. So much has happened in the past 11 days.
But the highlight of it all, is that our SWEET BABY MAX was born! Yes, our 5th baby (and caboose of the family), has arrived! But unfortunately, he’s still hanging out at the hospital. We keep joking that he knew he had to make an entrance of some kind, to gather up as much attention as he could get, being the 5th child and all! ;) If you follow along on Instagram, you already know this, but our sweet little bubs has been having a few issues with his lungs and heart and has been in the NICU since birth. All of 11 days of it.
But, for those of you who have been cheering us along and have been asking what happened and how he’s doing, etc…..here are a few more details.
—> The quick version is that Max Emmett Johnston was born on April 30th, at 12:10 p.m., weighing in at 10 pounds even, and 23 inches long. Yes, a nice big boy, who completely stole our hearts the minute he was born! :)
Here’s the more detailed version.
Back in January, I shared that I was expecting our 5th baby at the end of April, and that he was a BOY. And just like 3 out of the 4 previous pregnancies, I had a scheduled induction date to deliver this little guy. If you have been reading for very long, you’ll know that I tend to grow LARGE babies (nope, not diabetic)…our biggest weighing in at 11 pounds (Chloe, #3)! And nope, no c-sections. My husband Steve is 6’5″ and I’m 5’11” so any hopes our children may have of being small, are very slim. ;)
On the day of our induction date, April 28th, all rooms were full, so we were bumped to the 29th……and then again to the 30th. I don’t know why it’s hard for a pregnant lady to hear that she’s been bumped from her scheduled date, but holy smokes, don’t do that to a hormonal woman!! ;) But once we got in, it finally started to feel real…..and the adrenaline was at full speed! It almost felt like it was our very first baby all over again!
Baby Max was head down but I think because I have an extra long torso, my babies don’t get into position like they should (which is also probably why I never dilate ahead of time). So, Max was still kinda bobbling around in there, not engaging into position, even with the pitocin kicked up into high gear. So labor was taking a very long time. Once my water broke though, they could see that Max had a bowel movement, so they called the NICU to have some nurses ready to whisk him away, in case he had aspirated any of the meconium. (Okay, am I sharing too much? I’m still in the mode of “nothing is private” because my space has been more than invaded for the past few weeks. So, maybe my filter is a little tarnished. If so, sorry for all the details. Ha!)
After 2 long hours of pushing, and trying to turn a posterior (face up) baby into the correct downward position each time a contraction would hit…..sweet baby Max was finally born! My doctor let Steve help catch the baby as he was delivered, and then they both quickly passed him to me for about 3.2 seconds, before whisking him away to the NICU cart to check him out. Those angel nurses got right to work, scanning him, giving him oxygen, and cleaning him up.
And sure enough, his belly was full of meconium. But the real issue is that little Max wasn’t breathing very well….and they could hear fluid in his lungs.
Even though his breathing was labored, he still let the nurses know what he thought about all of this. Especially that thermometer in his armpit. (What’s with babies and those thermometers?!?! Those things are painless compared to where they stuck that thing when we were kids. Ha!)
Then, they weighed him in at a whopping 10 pounds and 23 inches long, and a head circumference of 15 1/4 cm, (which is similar to Connor’s head size when he was a baby). Apparently that’s a pretty big head….and the biggest this nurse had seen. (Maybe that’s why it took 2 hours to push that sucker out!)
That’s when they told me that Max couldn’t stay with me….and would need to head over to the NICU right away.
So, they gave me another minute or two to snuggle that little love bug and try to soak in all his sweetness…..and I tried so hard to quickly memorize all of his little features. That’s when my heart broke just a bit, knowing they would take him away before I had enough time. Oh, how I wanted to just sit there and hold him, so incredibly much.
Steve followed Max and held him as much as he could, while I stayed in bed, trying to recover from my epidural. I wasn’t allowed out of my bed until I could stand up…..and it was KILLING me to wait in that room for a few hours all alone! I just wanted to get my hands on my baby!
Meanwhile, Max was hooked up to every machine possible….and was nicknamed “THE TODDLER” over in the NICU. Ha!
After several hours, I was finally allowed to hold that sweet baby boy again. So. Many. Emotions.
And yes, even after 5 babies……it’s completely overwhelming to hold that brand new baby in your arms, knowing that you have been given full responsibility of this precious little gift. A feeling I’ll always treasure.
Max has no idea yet…..but he’ll soon figure out that he’s got a pretty fantastic daddy, who loves he and his siblings more than anything in this world. (And to think how Steve used to be terrified of newborns and refused to hold them back when we were engaged. Just look at you now babe! Ha!)
And just like they had suspected (and after taking an xray), Max had indeed aspirated some meconium, which caused an infection in lungs. He was also having trouble slowing down his breathing and needed oxygen to assist him. They also put a tube down his throat to continue sucking out any more meconium from his belly. So at this point, he was being fed calories through his IV….and wasn’t allowed to eat orally.
Meanwhile, at home…..our kids were DYING to hold their new little brother. However, we decided to not bring them in right away because there were a few runny noses in our house. By about day 5 though, we brought them to the NICU, and let them come see baby Max, 2 at a time. Ellie and Chloe got to see him first. I think they were a little shocked at all the wires and funny tubes.
But they warmed right up to him….and begged to hold him! But we told them they needed to wait until he came home and told them they could touch his hair and talk to him all they wanted! :)
Then, it was Connor and Oliver’s turn to come in and see Max. They’re still pretty thrilled that there are now more boys in our family! I’m pretty sure Connor tried to give Max a fist bump, to welcome him to the team! :)
And yep, same rule….only touch the hair! ;)
I think Oliver is the most confused by all of this and still has no clue that we’re actually bringing this kid home to our house one of these days. But he did like pointing out all of Max’s facial features to us. Ha!
At this point (day 5 in the NICU), the neonatologist just let us know that it was up to Max how soon he’d be coming home. He still had an infection in his lungs that he needed to fight off…..but he also had to regulate his breathing, because his respiratory rate was way too fast. And because of that, he still couldn’t eat through his mouth, in fear of him aspirating again. So my milk was being pumped in through that tube through his nose.
Life has been an absolute blur since Max was born, but during the first week, I spent most of the day with Max while Steve went to work, and my mom helped out (a ton!) at home, keeping my bigger kids alive and loved! :)
After about 8 days in the NICU, Max’s breathing finally slowed down enough with the oxygen, to drink from a bottle. Yay!!
Then, only another day after that and he was finally weaned off the oxygen because his lungs decided to kick it into gear! And then because he started eating really well and was taking the full amount of milk via a bottle, they took the feeding tube out of his nose. And then finally…..this big boy started to learn how to nurse. Oh my goodness, that has been a process of building muscle for Max (and patience on my end) but we are working on that one together. :)
And just when we thought he was pretty much in the clear and we thought we were just waiting for him to maintain strength while off all of the machines and monitors…..they discovered that Max has a heart murmur. So they did an ECHO and sent it off to cardiology.
Meanwhile, Max had a weird episode in the middle of the night, right after I nursed him….and his heart rate skyrocketed to over 300 beats per minute. All of the sudden, the monitors started blazing and the room quickly filled with nurses and doctors. They started gagging Max with a bulb syringe to help reset him (sounds strange, I know) and while that wasn’t working, the doctor yelled to the nurses to grab some ice. While she sprinted away to grab a bag of ice, he grabbed a tube and started shoving it down Max’s throat. That sweet baby Max started gagging and then their attention all darted up to watch the montiros. Apparently that did the trick and reset his heart rate. All the doctors and staff told us this just sometimes happens and may never happen again. We were hopeful this was the case.
However, 2 nights later…..it happened again, while he was just laying in bed. So once again, the room filled up with medical staff, and lot of tension. They were sprinting for ice and this time the nurse practitioner shoved his finger down his throat (because there wasn’t a tube handy)…..which did the trick and reset his heart rate again. That’s when we learned that Max may have SVT (Supraventricular Tachycardia). So the doctors ordered an EKG of his little heart, to see if we could see more of what’s going on and if it had anything to do with his heart murmur. (Apparently, the gagging causes increased blood pressure in the chest cavity and that’s what reset his heart rate. The ice is another method they use to do the same thing, by pressing it against the face and kind of gagging them with it….but the shock of it helps reset the heart rate. There’s still a lot I need to learn about how all of that works….but that’s the main idea.)
Anyway, the ECHO and the EKG have been read and analyzed by his pediatric cardiologist…..and thankfully, the hole in his heart should close on its own and the SVT (rapid heart rate) can be helped with an oral medication. They gave us some instruction in case he has an episode at home but he shouldn’t while on this medicine. (They’re also hoping he grows out of the SVT as well.)
Now, we’re just waiting to be cleared to go home. Max has passed all of his tests, he breathes normally, his infection is gone, his heart rate is under control, he’s peeing/pooping, and he has been poked and prodded enough to last a life time. We’re just praying that today is the day! But even if it’s not, it won’t be too much longer!!!!
This kid is a champ. And a fighter. And through all of this, he has snuck his way so deeply into my heart.
As for the NICU…..I’m so ready to leave (and sleep in my own bed again). And we’re hoping today is the day! I know many parents have had to go through similar (and even much longer and more severe) scenarios with their wee babes, and it’s really, really tough. Leaving your baby in this big hospital while you drive away without them, is painful. But I can’t believe how incredibly kind, attentive, and patient those nurses/doctors are in the NICU wing. And I am convinced that NICU’s have more prayers floating heavenward than possibly any other location on this earth…..so I know Max has been surrounded by a whole lot of love while there. And for that, I’ll be forever grateful.
So, for now, we’re hoping and praying we will be discharged. And that Max will remain healthy. And symptom free. And that we can finally love on this sweet boy any ol’ time we want! :)
**And oh my, if we stay here much longer, this whole bed situation isn’t going to work! The NICU isn’t well equipped for big ol’ toddler babies! ;)
And again, to all of you who have sent messages, emails, texts, prayers, well wishes, etc…..thank you so very, very much. We have felt so much love from so many people, I can’t even describe what that has done for us. And for Max.
. . . .
Once things settle down, which I know they will, I’ll update you all again. And then this blog will return back to the normal lighthearted fun and creative space that it usually is. Because I miss it! :) (However, my sweet and talented contributors will continue to post, just like they have been. Man, I love the crew that we have here on this blog!)
Talk to you soon,